Feb 12, 2013

Posted by in Issue of the Day, Social comment | 0 Comments

Drinking and pregnancy

Hey, I’m a male so it’s not my place to tell women what to do when they’re pregnant. Still, some new research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) raises an issue that demands comment.

But, first, a scene-setter: a national TV show host was exposed for smoking cigarettes while pregnant. It led her to indulge in an emotion-charged and tearful confession on radio.  That set social media alight. While many tut-tutted, many also leapt to her defence.

The sisterhood argued that a woman’s body is her own and no-one else should interfere. That’s fine as far as it goes but what if you witnessed a defenceless child being hit by an adult: would you feel you should speak up or even physically intervene?

Our own values would guide our actions in respect of intervention but the broad issue of an unborn baby’s health being adversely affected does warrant discussion.

It is interesting, if troubling, to note some statistics released by AIHW.

It reveals that 13.5% of mothers report smoking while pregnant. Distressingly, nearly 37% of teenage mothers confess to smoking during pregnancy. Our attitudes to alcohol are intriguing given that 70-80% of mothers drink during pregnancy yet a mere 10% of Canadian mothers do the same.

What really struck a chord, though, was the alarming statistic that 30% of mothers do not know that alcohol can damage a foetus.

That just seems exceptional given the prominence of this issue generally and the large volumes of media exposure given to it. Surely basic health is still taught in schools and it would not be possible for basic health issues not to cover safe health practices during pregnancy. Would it?

Hey, I’m a male and I have been subjected to a welter of educational campaigns and general media exposure on this for decades. I get the message/s. How can women not be aware? That just seems extraordinary.

Even so, the topic is not one that should be whipped-up into a fear campaign. This follows advice from a Professor of maternal foetal medicine who says numerous women who drink substantially before they realise they are pregnant often request a termination. So, the consequences can be very serious.

Clearly, though, there appears to a great deficiency in education and awareness around smoking and drinking during pregnancy which should be corrected, especially among younger cohorts of women so that quality choices can be made by individuals.

 

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